The rocky, long-drawn relationship between the England Cricket Board and the country's most flamboyant and successful cricketer, Kevin Pietersen came to an end as the former pulled the plug by dropping him for two of their upcoming series'.
The England team had just returned home after not just conceding the Ashes that they won less than six months ago but also being embarrassingly outplayed by their arch-nemesis, Australia. It was certainly time for introspection and search for a way to address the kind of slump, but to make one of the most talented players in world cricket their scapegoat does not help their cause.
If this Telegraph report is anything to go by, it seems as if an anti-Andy Flower rant by Pietersen during an England squad meeting in Melbourne on December 30th is the cause for his current ouster. According to the report, Alastair Cook and Matt Prior called for an emergency players meeting during the fourth Test against Australia, without the knowledge of the coaching personnel.
During this meeting, the players were addressing the issue of too much reliance on coach Andy Flower and Pietersen mistook the agenda and began to rant about Flower. While the players clarified to him the agenda of the meeting, this act of Pietersen seems to have reached Flower and demanded an explanation.
Even if one is to consider this a strong reason for the axing, which it isn't, there is still a lack of logical reasoning to it as Andy Flower himself was let go not very long ago. While the alleged incident does require attention, it seems like one that could have been sorted out behind closed doors. This is where the essence of effective man management comes in, which is distinctly lacking in the ECB.
The fact that talent comes in different shapes and sizes is no fable and a cricket board's competence lies in their ability to manage them well is not a recent phenomenon in team sport. However, it is an area where the board has failed and seems to have taken the easy route. 'If we can't manage him, lets sack him' seems to have been the philosophy behind the move.
Pietersen's flambouyance and a dominating attitude has long divided opinions off the field among the former England cricketers. While some opine that he is the kind of a talent that a board should go out of the way to manage, some believe he doesn't fit into the philosophy. Either way, any such decision should have been taken in the 'best interest of the team going forward' and ECB, on that front, seem to have missed a point.
The group of officials that sat down to make such a big decision should have perhaps, looked at what has transpired in the last six-eight months in their rival camp. Michael Clarke-led Australia did not just suffer a 3-0 drubbing in England, they also saw coach Mickey Arthur adopt a strict approach against four players including vice-captain Shane Watson for not having stuck by a few guidelines. This school boys-like treatment dished out to players did not go down too well with Cricket Australia and they did not waste too much time to rope in a friendly Darren Lehmann to replace the dictator-like Arthur. Arthur's ways weren't incorrect, they just didn't suit the kind of environment that Australia plays cricket in. To the layman it seemed like the innocent was being punished but it was Cricket Australia's vision that helped them take such a decision, the positives of which have come in the form of a comprehensive Ashes win at home. (Also read: 'KP, a maverick that England couldn't manage')
The trick, therefore, seems to lie in the ability to strike a chord which has been a big issue for ECB when it came to Pietersen.
There is probably nothing worse than pinning the blame of collective failure on a single individual, and that too of Pietersen's calibre. The rocky relationship between these two parties have seen several ups and downs but recent history would suggest they did manage to briefly ride the tide. From sending text messages to South African players and asking to be allowed to play the entire season of the Indian Premier League, all of Pietersen's antics were taken in and he was still allowed a second chance when he backtracked on his 'demands' and committed himself to the services of the country. A highly successful tour of India in 2012, characterised by a sensational knock of 186 at the Wankhede marked his full and final re-integration back into the English side. The board's ability to swallow pride and re-instate him into the side at that point in time after a lot of drama makes the current situation even more baffling.
"I believe I have a great deal still to give as a cricketer. I will continue to play but deeply regret that it won't be for England," Pietersen had stated in an ECB release.
Pietersen's reaction to ECB's decision suggests his obvious disappointment but also signals at the possibility of him moving on rather quickly and continuing to do what he does best: play attractive cricket.
The world of cricket has truly been robbed off, of a colourful character as fans are left with just memories of Pietersen tearing apart some of the fastest bowlers and dominating the finest spinners in his own, unorthodox ways. His brilliance in the 2005 Ashes series will, perhaps, remain his finest performance in an English shirt ever, with the Wankhede knock that ironically resurrected his career last time around, coming close second.
While fans begin to come to terms with the fact that they will never get to see him play for the country again and the team gets ready for life without its most talismanic batsman, Pietersen walks away with over 13,000 international runs (8181 in Tests, 4440 in ODIs and 1176 in T20Is) and an attitude and a character that unfortunately proved to be too much for the English board to manage.